When you’re shooting a subject, it’s easy to get caught up in the details. You might be so focused on getting the perfect shot of an object that you don’t consider how it will fit into the larger picture.
The same can happen when you’re taking photos of people. If you’re trying to get a great portrait of your young daughter, for example, it’s easy to forget that she’s just one small piece of a much bigger story — her family and community.
That’s why it’s important to understand how to show a sense of scale in photography. A powerful image will tell a story that goes beyond simply documenting what’s in front of your lens. It will convey the importance of what you’re seeing and help viewers understand its significance relative to other things they may know about or have seen before.
It helps us understand the relative size of objects in our photographs, and can make them more interesting.
In this article, we’ll show you how to use different techniques to show a sense of scale and make your photos more visually appealing.
The Importance of Showing Scale in Photography
The goal of showing scale in photography is to give the viewer an idea of how large or small something is — it’s similar to perspective in painting, where artists use lines and shapes to give the illusion that their subject is farther away or closer than it actually is.
If you’re taking a portrait, showing that your subject is taller than another person will make them look more imposing and powerful (even if they’re actually shorter). If you’re photographing an object like a bottle or an apple on a table, showing its size relative to other objects can help you communicate information about it — for example, if it’s sitting among other bottles or apples that are much bigger than it is.
How to show a sense of scale in photography
Showing a sense of scale in photography can be a challenge, but it’s an essential skill to master. Here are some tips for photographing objects and people with a sense of scale.
There are many ways to show a sense of scale in your photographs. When you’re shooting landscapes, for example, you can use a wide-angle lens to include objects that provide scale, like humans or vehicles. You can also use telephoto lenses to isolate subjects that are farther away and then crop the image so it’s not just the subject but everything else is out of focus.
You can also shoot from above or below an object to create a more abstract image. In this case, you’re not looking for exact measurements so much as how big something looks in relation to other things around it.
Shooting for Scale
The best way to show scale in a photograph is to shoot from above — ideally, from directly above. Shooting straight down on your subject will give you the clearest picture of how big or small it actually is.
If you’re shooting from above, make sure that the subject fills the frame so that nothing else distracts from it. If necessary, use a wide-angle lens or crop later in postproduction.
You can also shoot from below (or just at ground level) if it works better for your subject. In this case, try to keep the horizon line parallel with your camera’s sensor plane so that it doesn’t cut through your subject (which would make it look huge).
If your subject is too small for this perspective (e.g., if it’s a person), try taking several photos from different angles and then stitching them together in postproduction.
Use Foreground Objects
One way to get more depth in your photos is by including smaller foreground objects as part of the composition. These can add more depth, but also help illustrate just how big or small something really is.
For example, if you’re taking a picture of an elephant and want viewers to know how big it really is, place something like a tree trunk or even another animal next to it for comparison purposes. This will help give viewers an idea of just how large an elephant actually is!
Use The Rule Of Thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the most commonly used rules for composing images. It involves dividing your image into three vertical and three horizontal sections (nine boxes), with points along these lines marking key focal points for your image.
It’s best to frame shots using the rule of thirds rather than having a subject dead center in the frame, as this creates an unnatural looking image. For example, if you have a person standing in front of something like a building or landscape they should be positioned so that they are either just above or below one of the vertical lines, not right in between two lines as this makes them look smaller than they really are.